Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
We know her as the irrepressible Poppy in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, for which she burst out of nowhere and won a Golden Globe. Woody Allen seems to have a preternatural instinct for discovering intuitively brilliant young actresses (Scarlett Johanssen, Rebecca Hall, Hayley Atwell), and he cast her as the innocent, charmingly ditzy blond girlfriend of Colin Farrell’s ne’r-do-well, Terry.
As the two doomed brothers, a kind of East End Cain and Abel, Ewan McGregor as Ian, and Colin Ferrell as Terry, share the simple desire to get rich by gambling and real-estate speculation, and break away from dreary London. Ian is the more ambitious of the two, and he takes on a posh, Sloane Ranger-type girlfriend, Angela (Hayley Atwell), all sensual pretensions and attractive phoniness. She’s the sort of woman Ian thinks he needs to have by his side to be taken seriously. But Terry has stuck around with his school sweetheart, the bubbly, supportive Kate.
Kate asks little from life. A three bedroom flat, a stable life with Terry. She has a prancy, upbeat walk, a cheery smile, but a certain steely resolve lies underneath. She’s a little like Tracey Ullmann’s Frenchy Fox from Small Time Crooks, one of those brassy, optimistic work-class women who Allen admires from time to time, just because they’re too happily ignorant to be neurotic. The childlike glee on Kate’s face when Terry shows her their new flat gives you a sense of a life full of gentle tranquility for Terry, far from the smoke-filled gambling dens and petty gangsters that he takes up with. As far as women are concerned, Terry was the sensible brother. Perhaps if Ian had an uncomplicated girlfriend like Kate, he may not have been so motivated to get money so quickly, and he wouldn’t have been embroiled in his Uncle Howard’s (Tom Wilkinson) murky business proposition.
As Kate, Hawkins has relatively little to do in terms of dialogue. She’s not on screen very much, but when she is, she’s terrific. She has a great versatility in switching from being both breezy and melancholy, and I think that’s something Allen must have noticed in her readings. There’s the scene where Kate goes over to Ian, to express her concerns over Terry’s sleepless nights and traumas. She conveys all her anxiety and helpless confusion at being left out in the dark, all in the course of two minutes. “I’m worried about Terry. He thinks he’s killed someone.” That’s of course the terrible bit of information that plants the seed of suspicion in Ian’s mind that leads to the film’s conclusion. The prophetic and dark undertones of movie are such that it seems as if Uncle Howard had an unwholesome instinct for what would happen between the two brothers and how everything would tie together in an awful way.
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
How ironic that it took a Woody Allen movie to cinematically showcase Hawn’s talents as a dancer and singer. Everyone Says I Love You (1996) represented a different direction for the use of music in Allen’s films. Songs of a bygone era (e.g., “I’m Through with Love”, “Everyone Says I Love You”, even the Marx Brothers’ “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”) furthered the story instead of merely providing a melodic backdrop. The film is a strange blend of Allen’s usual nebbish-character comedy, old-style Hollywood musical, and multiple modern romances.
In the only film in which she worked with Allen, Hawn creates a socialite with a social conscience, even if she sometimes misses the mark with her good intentions. In her desire to improve the lives of prison inmates, she promotes cuisine and cell decoration. She brings home a released convict more eager to take advantage of the women gathered around the table than the posh dinner to which he has been invited. In many of her scenes, Steffi is the catalyst for the humor rather than the joke. She’s a liberal philanthropist who manages to stay involved with her equally busy brood of children from her current (Alan Alda’s emotive attorney Bob) and former (Allen’s neurotic writer Joe) husbands, especially while her children and her ex struggle to find true love.
Hawn’s Steffi is light enough to defy gravity when she dances, as she does near the end of the film, but she is a delicious soufflé rather than a bubbly airhead, a far cry from the ditzy dancer of the Laugh-In years or the wide-eyed comedienne in rom-coms like Foul Play (1976) or Overboard (1987). Allen succeeds in showing Hawn’s previously unrevealed or merely glimpsed talents. He advised the actress not to sing quite so well, because Steffi isn’t a professional vocalist, but he emphasized her talent as a dancer. Although Steffi is confident and speaks her mind, her deeply romantic nature is obscured until one pivotal scene by the Seine.
Hawn sings “I’m Through with Love”, a tune ex-husband Joe says she taught him, but audiences know that neither is through with love nor each other. Nevertheless, this magical dance number helps explain not only why Joe and Steffi fell in love, but why they split up. The romantic setting is perfect—a quiet evening in Paris, just the two of them. They reminisce about the first time they watched the sunrise from the river’s banks, and they recognize the romance of returning to this precise spot once more. They first dance as a couple, but then Goldie’s Steffi takes center stage.
Her grace mesmerizes Joe (and the audience). She leaps and soars far above her partner. Her trust in him is obvious; he catches her effortlessly. As Hawn explained during an Inside the Actor’s Studio interview, life (as well as acting) is all about trust that someone, such as Steffi’s ex or Goldie’s director, will be there to catch her.
In this scene, Joe stays stuck on the ground, whereas Steffi is the epitome of a free spirit. He puts her on a pedestal; at one point he lifts her so that she stands balanced on his hand, but she soon dances away. Yet the scene ends with Steffi taking Joe’s hand, and the two stroll together, continuing their conversation. The friendship and love remain, but the former spouses seem ultimately incompatible partners in the dance of life, despite the temptation to rekindle romance one evening in Paris.
Although Allen’s film received mixed reviews (only Roger Ebert unabashedly loved it) and the idea of a Woody Allen musical may sound even stranger in retrospect than it did in 1996, Everyone Says I Love You gifts audiences with Hawn as a mature actress showcasing some surprising talents. Just like Joe, audiences fall in love with a grown-up Goldie.